(Editor's Note: We spotted this piece and realized it hadn't been published yet. No time like the present, right? In this open letter written Dec.9, 2010, Opposing Views expert and Rutgers Professor Gary Francione tells Aaron Sorkin that he's dead wrong about using animal products -- and Sarah Palin is 100% correct.)
The Huffington Post
Dear Mr. Sorkin:
In a recent blog on The Huffington Post, you criticize Sarah Palin, whom you quote as stating, in response to criticisms of her hunting and killing a caribou on her reality TV show:
“Unless you’ve never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather chair or eaten meat, save your condemnation.”
You acknowledge that you eat animal products and have shoes and furniture made of leather but you claim to be able to distinguish yourself from Ms. Palin. You state to her:
You weren’t killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I’ve tried and tried and for the life of me, I can’t make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I’m able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.
Sorry, Mr. Sorkin. I cannot think of a single thing that Sarah Palin has ever said with which I agree. Ever. Really. Ever. But on this, she’s dead right and you’re dead wrong.
You object to her killing the caribou because it was unnecessary; she did it because she enjoyed it.
And why do you eat meat and animal products?
That’s a rhetorical question. There’s only one answer: Because you enjoy it.
There is no necessity involved. You do not need to eat animal products to live an optimally healthy life. In fact, mainstream health care people are telling us every day that animal products are detrimental to our health in one way or the other. But you do not even have to agree with them to agree with the plain and indisputable fact that we do not need to eat animal products to live a healthy life. It’s a matter of palate preference and nothing more.
And animal agriculture is an environmental disaster.
The best–indeed, the only–justification we have for inflicting suffering and death on 56 billion animals annually (not counting fish) is that they taste good. And it does not matter whether you eat conventional animal products or the “happy” meat and animal products promoted by various animal welfare groups and advocates in their attempt to make the public feel better about consuming animals: all of the animals we use for food, including the most “humanely” raised and killed, are treated and slaughtered in ways that, were humans involved, would, without doubt, be characterized as constituting torture.
The fact that you pay someone else to do the dirty work is morally irrelevant. If you pay someone to kill another human, try telling the judge that the actually killer enjoyed the act of killing but that you just paid for it. The judge will tell you that you’re both guilty of murder. You’re both equally culpable.
I won’t bother to comment on the shoes and furniture. Again, those choices reflect nothing more morally weighty than your aesthetic taste and that has no moral weight at all.
As for Michael Vick, as I have argued, Vick apparently liked sitting around a pit watching dogs fight; the rest of us like sitting around the barbecue pit roasting the flesh of animals who, under the best of circumstances, have had a worse life and death than Vick’s dogs. To criticize Vick for his morally unjustifiable acts while we engage in conduct that is morally no different is nothing more than hypocrisy.
Sorry, Mr. Sorkin, as someone who embraces progressive politics and who finds Sarah Palin objectionable on so many levels that it is difficult to count, she’s right on this. You have no moral standing to criticize what she did.
I would ask that you consider going vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University School of Law–Newark
© 2010 Gary L. Francione